Microsoft says next-gen CPUs will not be supported on Windows 7

Start10-windows 10

Windows 10 is off to a very impressive start, but there are still an awful lot of holdouts (including yours truly) who are sticking with the tried-and-true Windows 7. (Windows 8, not so much.) But like it or not, the time is coming when an upgrade won't be an option, because Microsoft says that older versions of Windows not be supported on the coming generations of CPUs.

Windows and Devices Group Executive Vice President Terry Myerson's recent post on the Windows Blog, entitled “Windows 10 Embracing Silicon Innovation," begins with a note about how well Windows 10 works on Intel's sixth-gen Skylake CPUs. “Compared to Windows 7 PC’s, Skylake when combined with Windows 10, enables up to 30x better graphics and 3x the battery life—with the unmatched security of Credential Guard utilizing silicon supported virtualization,” he wrote.

Unfortunately for Win7 adherents, the news after that isn't quite so happy. Myerson acknowledged that large numbers of people are still running the older Windows and that transitioning to Windows 10, especially for large-scale businesses, takes time. But he also made it clear that the clock is ticking.

“Windows 7 was designed nearly 10 years ago before any x86/x64 SOCs existed. For Windows 7 to run on any modern silicon, device drivers and firmware need to emulate Windows 7’s expectations for interrupt processing, bus support, and power states—which is challenging for WiFi, graphics, security, and more,” he continued. “As partners make customizations to legacy device drivers, services, and firmware settings, customers are likely to see regressions with Windows 7 ongoing servicing.”

Windows 7 will be supported for “security, reliability, and compatibility” on previous-generation CPUs through January 14, 2020, while Windows 8.1 will get the same treatment through January 10, 2023. But “as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support,” Myerson wrote. As an example, he said that Intel's upcoming Kirby Lake, Qualcomm's 8996, and AMD's Bristol Ridge will only support Windows 10.

Microsoft will release a list of specific Skylake devices that it will continue to support on Windows 7 and 8.1 next week, to ensure customers can upgrade to new hardware now even if they're not yet prepared to make the move to Windows 10. That list will be maintained until July 17, 2017, after which “the most critical Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 security updates will be addressed for these configurations, and will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices.”

Update: The report originally stated that older version of Windows will not run on new generations of CPUs. The actual statement in the blog is the somewhat more ambiguous, "Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support." I've updated the post to reflect that wording.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.